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Monday, November 17, 2014

A Long Time Dream Comes True



A Long Time Dream Comes True

Forty-three years ago, when I was nineteen, I had a lot of dreams. One of them was to move to the sunshine state where my dearest friend lived. (Why she was my dearest friend is a different story for a different day, but I will tell you that she was my life-saver when I was fourteen). I wanted to be where she was, and she promised me sunshine all winter long. Even then, I hated cloudy November days with their promise of cold and snow on the way.

So I packed my car with everything I owned, and headed down the highway, going south. With a new license to practice nursing in my hand, I planned to spend the winter, and maybe forever, if my destination turned out to be as perfect as I thought it would be.

I arrived in sunny Florida with my pots and pans, my linens, and all the clothes I owned. Until I could find my own place to live, I moved in with my friend and her poor mom. I soon discovered for myself that Florida was everything she promised it would be. Sunshine and blue skies kissed the gentle waters of the Gulf of Mexico and its sandy white beaches. There was no need for heavy winter coats, and I loved it…for two weeks.

What I had not factored into my plan was the blond guy with blue eyes I left behind in cold Ohio. I had only known him for six months when I left, and wasn’t even sure he was important for my happiness. But absence did make the heart grow fonder. (That too, is another story for another day.)

So, once again I packed my belongings into that blue Ford, but this time I drove North…right into a snow storm.  But it was okay, the blond guy was waiting for me.

After he asked me to marry him, I ask him if he would ever consider moving south where it was warm and sunny. His answer was brief and to the point. “No, I like home.”  He had spent a year in a hot and humid place far from home, a place called Vietnam, and it gave him a great appreciation for people and places that were familiar and safe. And after that time in a muggy jungle, he even loved cold winters.  I decided a home in cold Ohio with him would be better than year-round sunshine without him.

Forty-three years of life have now gone by. The blond guy and I built a home and made some babies. There have been thousands of beautiful sunny days, but there have been some cold and cloudy ones too. The lovely days have outnumbered the ugly ones, and the joyful days have more than made up for the painful ones. Our three daughters grew into lovely young women, but our son had to be buried.

Together, we learned that there were days when we had to take turns being strong, being loving, and even being kind. We recognized that when one of us failed, the other was there to make up the difference. When one of us was sick, the other had to be well. And on the days when we didn’t think we loved each other any more, marriage was the bond that kept us together, until we could love again.

The blond guy (I still call him that, even though he has little hair, and what he does have is now gray) and I spent our years together, trying our best to put God and family first. We both worked hard at jobs that paid the bills, and gave us a little extra to save.

The girls got married and gave us more sons and beautiful babies. On the days when we had time to look around us, we saw that life was good, in spite of the difficult days. And, most of our mutual dreams came true.

But, on snowy, windy, frigid days, I still thought about my dream of spending the winter days in the sunshine. I would sometime mention my old dream to the blond guy, and he would always say, “someday, maybe.”

Then, on a cold day last winter, when the snow was piled high, the blond guy looked at me and spoke the words I never thought he’d say. “Next winter, we’ll make that old dream of yours come true. It’s time.”

But, life had changed me and my dreams. I didn’t want to go south in the winter anymore. We now had nine grandbabies, and they had tied my heart to home. They were all the sunshine I really needed. I had to tell the blond guy that the dream had changed and I couldn’t go.

“But I’ve saved our nickels and dimes for forty-three years to make your dream come true. And it’s my dream now, too.” 

I argued and gave him a list of all the “what ifs.” I told him we could do it, “someday, maybe, when the time is right.”

Then one day last spring, one of my hospice patients took my hand and said this to me, “Honey, don’t ever put off for tomorrow, what can be done today.”

In the months that followed, I tried to convince my daughters that they couldn't live without me close by. But the blond guy and I had raised strong women who had chosen good men, and they assured me they could take care of my grandbabies just fine, without me. They told me it was time to follow the dream. And they promised me that if I’d go with their dad, they’d bring my grandbabies to visit me, so we could all play in the sand and the sun together.

Last week, even though we both love home, the blond guy and I piled some of our junk into an old RV, and with retirement ahead of us, we traveled south, together. Our dream day had come.

As we drove, I reminisced about the path my life had taken while I was waiting for the dream to come true. I learned that living is about making the best of each day God gives us. It’s about moving forward, and accepting changes in time and people.  It’s about becoming a stronger and better person.  And yes, it’s about never giving up on your dream to spend a winter day in the sunshine with an old friend. Yes, she is still here and was waiting for me.

The blond guy and I plan on spending the winter in the sunshine together. When it’s over, I’ll know whether reality is as good as the dream has been. If it isn’t, then next winter, instead of sitting at the beach watching the waves caress the sand, I’ll sit beside my wood stove and watch the snow blanket my world in a coat of white.  Instead of drinking ice tea to cool me off,  I’ll drink hot chocolate to warm me up.

But no matter where I am next year, I'm thankful for today, for life, and for dreams that do come true

  

© 2014 B.J. Young

Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Family Blended by God

 
Of all the articles I've written for Front Porch Publishing, this is one of my favorites. Thank you Tracy family for sharing your story with us.
 
 
 
A Family Blended by God
In January of 2000, when high school sweet hearts, Alyssa Roehrig and Adam Tracy were married on a Jamaican cliff overlooking the blue Caribbean, they started on a journey that took them to places they never thought they’d go. They were  just nineteen and twenty years old that day when they established their family, and their dreams were simple ones…they wanted to have jobs that would take care of their needs, own a home, and have a couple of kids.
In 2009, just nine short years after they married, Adam and Alyssa had the house, two sons, and the jobs.  But now they found themselves wanting more…not more for themselves, but more of God’s will for their lives. And God had a plan for them that was to exceed all their dreams. He wanted them to make a difference in the lives of children who needed a home.  
With the blessing of their sons, Noah, age 8 and Dominic, age 5, and their supportive extended families, Adam and Alyssa began the process to become foster parents with the intent to adopt.
In October of that year, the Tracy family received the phone call that would change, not just their lives, but the lives of three other children. A sibling group of three boys, ages 8, 2, and 1, needed a home. The granny that was caring for them couldn’t keep them any longer. In one day, the Tracy family grew from four people to seven when Chris, Carvelle and Reggie joined them. The boys were officially adopted on August 12, 2010.
Ten months later, on May 9, 2011, the Tracy family received another phone call. This one was to inform them that eleven month old Jesse was at the hospital and needed an emergency placement. He was brought to them that evening. He was with the family as a foster child until his adoption was finalized on August 15, 2014.
The last to join the Tracy family was Ellie. Alyssa says they received the call for her on May 2, 2012. They couldn’t refuse her, she was the biological sister of Chris, Carvelle, and Reggie, and adding a baby girl had been the goal of the original family of four. She was just 3 days old when she was picked up at the hospital. Her adoption had to be put on hold for several weeks to wait on paternity testing, but was finalized on December 17, 2012. Christmas that year was the best ever for the family of nine.
When asked if they had any fears before starting the fostering process, Alyssa  explains that they thought the same thing every other foster person thinks: “what if you have to give them back after getting attached to them?! But, just like our biological kids, our foster and adopted kids are not really "ours" anyway. They are on loan to us from God who places them with us to nurture and grown them up in the way they should go.”
Although the Tracys are hoping their story will inspire others to open their hearts and home to children in need, they think it’s important to share that it isn’t always easy to do what they have done. Fostering to adopt is a bitter sweet experience.  Every aspect is bitter but sweet. For me to adopt, there will be an extremes loss in the child's life—the loss of their family. Yes, they gain another, but there is a HUGE loss first. I wouldn't trade the heartaches, the joys, the hours of stress, the tears or the laughter for anything.”
Today, Adam and Alyssa are parents to six sons, Noah (13), Chris (13), Dominic (10), Carvelle (7), Reggie (6)  and Jesse (4). Rounding out their family is Ellie, age two, who is often referred to by her brothers as “the favorite” child because she’s the baby sister they all wanted.
At one time, the word “family” was defined as a group of people connected by blood, but the Tracy family has their own definition. They are a group of people God has blended together, to love and support each other—for the sole purpose of living lives that shine for God.
On Alyssa’s blog, https://myeverydayordinarylife.wordpress.com/  you will find this Bible verse that became their motivation for fostering and adopting children. It’s found in Romans 12.  :
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
Will there be more children for the Tracy’s?  If there are, they may have to get a bigger house. The family remains in the small home that Adam and Alyssa first bought when they married. This writer is totally convinced though that it’s not the size of the house that makes a family, it’s the amount of love found in it.
Adam and Alyssa not only get to work as a team at home with the family God has given them, they also get to do it in the new jobs God has provided for them. They are co-administrators at Children’s Lantern, ( http://childrenslantern.org/) a non-profit organization whose mission statement is this: “Helping Helpless Children in 4 areas: Feeding Kids, Foster Care, Funding Adoptions and Freeing Sex Slaves”
Adam and Alyssa find great joy in serving God and others, but there are days when they wonder where they’ll find the time and energy they need to be the best parents they can be. They say they just do their best with what God has given them, and are comforted by the fact that they are making a difference in the lives of all their children by giving them a Christian foundation.  
© Brenda Young
 

 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Cry Baby


Cry Baby
            I’m a crybaby. I cry when I’m sad, when I’m happy, when I’m angry, and when I’m disappointed. I cry when I read a sad book or watch a sad movie. I cry when my husband makes me mad, and I cry at church when the pastor speaks of the grace of God. I cried with the families of my special patients when I worked at hospice… I always said when I couldn't feel empathy any more, then I needed to quit nursing. I cry when my Dad reads the Christmas story, and I cry every time I have a new grandbaby. 
            Yes, I am a crybaby. When I was young, my brothers often called me that. Sometimes I think they did things just to make me cry. They stopped calling me crybaby when I was a teenager and gained a lot of weight. Then they called me Breado, and still do. I know now it’s a term of endearment, but I thought then that they were calling me “bread dough”, and that made me cry too.
            My Momma used to tell me that some of us are just very sensitive and that’s why we cry so much. She said it was okay. The dictionary says it’s simply shedding tears as a response to an emotional state in humans. There is also a very long compex definition of it too. I think it’s interesting that the definition says it only happens to humans, but I recently read an story about an elephant that cried. It was a beautiful story.
            I’ve also read that there are different kinds of tears, the ones I cry when I’m holding a new grandbaby in my arms and the ones I cried when my son died are two different kinds of tears. When analyzed, tears contain different chemicals depending on what it is that makes us cry. Crying is a mechanism for humans to dispose of stress when it gets too high. That’s why a good cry after an argument with my husband always makes me feel better.
            I never saw my Gramma cry and I asked her about it.  She said it was because when her son died, she cried all the tears she had, and there were none left. That was before five more of her nine children died before she did.
            One day when I was in my twenties, I looked in the mirror after a good cry and was horrified. Crying can make a person look ugly. My eyes, nose and lips were red and swollen, and my face looked like some grotesque comic person. I decided I should probably stop crying so much. And I was tired of others thinking of me as a “crybaby”.  I decided right then that I didn’t want to be a crier anymore, so I asked God to take my tears away.
            Oh what misery. When a person who is a crier holds the tears in, a great deal of damage can be done to that person’s emotional well being. Let me clarify. There is a difference in controlling our emotions and suppressing them. Sometimes we have to control them because it’s inappropriate at the time to show them.
            When we actually push our emotions down, there are unhealthy long term consequences. At some point they will come out in inappropriate behaviors. or we simply try to get rid of them by using substances like drugs and alcohol.
            If you are a crier like me and think you don’t want to be anymore, let me tell you what will happen. All those emotions you one time expressed by crying will now be expressed in more inappropriate ways; especially if it’s a negative feeling.  Instead of crying when you fight with your husband, you throw a sugar bowl at him. (at least it was something sweet). Instead of crying when you are overwhelmed by responsibilities, you get in your car and leave your children behind so you won’t lash out at them. When you come back, they are crying because they thought you were gone forever.
            And if your son dies and you don’t cry, you will suffer from deep depression and anxiety down the road.
            So, I asked God to give my tears back to me. Yes, after I cry I still look horrible on the outside, but it is a small price to pay because I feel cleansed on the inside.
            I recently read that after you die, you can have a tree planted in your ashes if you decide to be cremated. I was talking to my daughter about that and told her I thought I’d like to become a tree after I died, but didn’t know what kind of tree I should be. She suggested I become a weeping willow. I thought that was so funny, I laughed till I cried.   

© 2014 B.J. Young

 

Monday, July 7, 2014

My Wish for my Grandchildren

 
Growing up, I was told I should marry a man who was #1 a good Christian, #2 a hard worker, and #3 someone who came from a good solid family. Those were excellent qualities to look for in a partner. But now that I've been married for 42 years, I recognize that there are other qualities that are just as important. Some would say these are just the frosting on the good solid cake, and frosting is not needed. But, I have to be honest, I don't want cake without frosting. So I'm wishing that all of my grandkids find these qualities in their future mates.  
 
 
 
 
These six kids and their 3 older cousins deserve the best!
 
 
 

Friday, July 4, 2014

Backyard Beauty

What a gorgeous Independence Day! The sky is a cloudless blue and the air is the perfect temperature. There's a gentle, cool breeze blowing the flag on the pole behind the pond.

We've had just enough rain to keep the grass green, the garden growing and my flowers blooming. (yes that is a tomato plant in the middle of my flowers. I put it there to add a little green filler and now its crowding out the flowers. But it has blooms on it, so I guess I'll leave it. Nothing like walking out the back door to pick a fresh tomato!)



As I sat outside this morning and looked around me, my heart was at peace. The sound of the dozen song birds as they fluttered around the finch feeders, and the hum of the hummingbird wings was music to my ears.

Then, as if I needed icing on my cake, I noticed that the bluebirds were back and making another nest in their box. Their first brood just fledged a week ago.

 
I went to get the camera to see if I could capture the beauty of this morning and when I turned it on I was reminded that my backyard has been full of my blessings all week.
 
 
 
And I knew in my heart...there is no place I'd rather be than right here in my backyard.


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Looking West, I Feel its Pull

Sunrise...Sunset. Beginning...End. Birth...Death
 

Maumee Bay State Park

For several years I could stand in my backyard, watch the sun set,
and feel it pulling at me. 
Then, about four months ago, it stopped.
Three days ago I stood in this spot at sunset and the feeling returned.
This time the pull was strong, almost overpowering.
And I wondered what had changed.



Friday, June 20, 2014

God? Are You There? I Want You to Write My Story too.

Have you ever known someone who did exactly what this song tells us to do? I have, and what God wrote on the pages of their life taught me, and others, so much. Their book will remain long after they are gone.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eKcImiTxqKg&feature=share



Tuesday, June 17, 2014

An Achey Heart

In the quiet hours of this morning, I've pondered this quote from an expert on death.
Because I've had my share of grief, I know there is truth here,
but the expert forgets to mention that even when you are "whole again", the heart still aches.
 
 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Baby Blubirds 2014

 
 
 
 

Six youngest grandbabies bonding with the baby bluebirds.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Magnificent End to a God Sent, Garden Soaking, Rainy Day

 
One of the reasons I love going to Florida, Gulf coast, is just to see the sunsets. But, truth be told, this one, only 30 miles from home, was just as spectacular. Even the geese lined up to watch!


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Where I Am


  As I look out the window of my camper, I see the sun shining brightly in the Western sky making long shadows of the trees. That’s not out of the ordinary, but there’s also a fairly heavy rain falling from clouds directly overhead. The sun is shining and it’s raining. I tried to take a picture, but it was impossible to capture the beauty of it.  
                Reminds me of life right now. I feel like there’s a dark threatening cloud hanging over my head, but fortunately, I can still see the sun. That gives me hope, until I think about the possibility of the cloud moving over the sun. But I know, even if that happens, the sun will still shine, it always does,without fail. And clouds are always transient. I will try to hang on to that bit of information as I go through this difficult time in my life. I wish I could share why it’s difficult, but I really feel like no one would understand, or maybe even care.
                If you’re following my blog, you know that I have been in partial seclusion for several days. My plan was to be this way for several more days, but life calls and I go back to reality on Thursday afternoon. I was hoping, while I was here, that God would help me as I go through a difficult transition in life. I have felt His presence, but it seems like he is going to make me work this one out by myself. I really don’t feel like I’m anymore “settled” now than I was. Maybe I never will be.
                Settled or not though, life goes on. Every day (except this rainy one), I've done a lot of walking and been able to soak in the beauty of this place. I've also sat in a chair and looked at the field across the road. I have literally, been watching corn grow. The first day, it was barely out of the ground.  It must be a good 4 inches high now. After the rain today, I imagine it will grow even faster.
                To some people, watching corn grow would be a waste of time. To me it has been comforting. It makes me see that even when I feel like my life has come to a screeching halt, the world around me goes on…uninterrupted. And I'm glad it does. How horrible if the whole world would stop when I do. And after today, I am reminded, that wherever I am,  the sun will still shine even when there are clouds and rain.

 

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Not Your Average Bear…I Mean Walker


            Do you remember when Yogi Bear used to say “I'm smarter than the av-er-age bear!” ?  I know…that ages me. My grandkids don’t know who Yogi Bear is and my girls probably don’t either. Anyways, I thought about him this morning when I was walking. I’m still in my self imposed solitude at a campground and I love walking the park in the mornings.
            Since I’ve been here, I’ve tried to turn my brain off when I walk so I can meditate (let God talk to me). I’ve been fairly successful, until this morning. The campground is full for the weekend and there are a lot of other people here. As I walked, I noticed that the other walkers were not like me. They were either walking with another one or two people or they had their music piped into their ears. That’s what made me thing about Yogi, he wasn’t your average bear and I’m not your average walker because I like to do my walking alone and without interference.
            If I had been walking and talking with some else this morning, or listening to music, I would have missed what God wanted me to see and hear and smell and feel and touch.
            I would have missed the sounds of the birds chirping and cawing. I would not have heard the wind in the trees, and I would not have heard the soft splash as a fish jumped in the water. I would have totally missed that moment of silence when I was alone at the edge of the creek.
            I probably would not have noticed how blue the water looked, how green the trees were or how fast a squirrel can scurry. I would have totally missed what I think was a blue heron as it stood regally in the waters. I probably would not have stopped to watch a momma goose and her little ones as they walked silently at the shore line. I would not have thought about how my own children, like the baby geese, used to follow me so closely when they were little. That was a memory I needed.
            I would not have noticed the warmth of the sun on my shoulders or felt the wind in my face.
            The intoxicating smell of the honeysuckle would not have stopped me in my tracks and made me go closer to them. I would not have reached out and pulled a blossom loose and touched it to my tongue.
            Yes, I may have missed the company of a friend or missed the sound of a beautiful Christian song…but there is a time and a place for everything. Today, it was my day to listen to the voice of God and sense His presence all around me.
            And I was glad that I’m not your average walker.   
      

 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

5-27-14

 
Beautiful
 
 
But Empty at 7:07 PM
 
 
 
 
 

 

This Morning's Walk

 
And God saw every thing that he had made, and behold it was very good.
Genesis1:


Just 24 Hours


 
It’s 11a.m. on May 27, 2014. I was born 22,705 days ago. That’s 544,896+ hours ago.  Sitting here this morning, I’m wondering… what have I done with all those hours?

I’ve probably slept away at least a third of them, more when I was younger and less the older I get. That’s about 181,700 of those total hours. Because I enjoy eating, I’ve probably spent 2 hours a day doing that, so there just went another 45,000 hours.  Now I’m down to a little over 318,000 hours left to account for. If I had the time and the energy, I could go on and speculate about how many of those hours I’ve played, worked, studied and day-dreamed. I wonder, how many were productive and how many were wasted?

 I’ve read different theories about the number of emotions a person experiences in a life time. One theory says there are eight primary ones, joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness, disgust, anger and anticipation. And there are more…love, shame, kindness, pity, envy, and the list goes on. In my 544,896+ hours, I know I’ve experience all of them.

But, sitting here this morning, I recognize that although I am who I am today, because of my experiences of the past, what I need to do is look forward. Although I can’t account for every hour of the past 544,896+ of my life, I can start this moment and make sure the next 24 hours are ones I have used well. Although I have plans for most of the next 24 hours, I’ve discovered that plans don’t always work out. I even have dreams for some of the next 24 hours. But like plans, dreams sometimes don’t always work out either. But at the end of the day, I think I’ll still be glad I had those dreams…they gave me something to look forward to.

I wonder who I’ll come in contact with in the next 24 hours?  Because I’ve chosen to live the next several days in solitude, I don’t plan on seeing or speaking to anyone, but I still wonder if my path will intersected the path of someone else? Maybe it will be someone I can help. Or someone whose company I can enjoy? Or maybe it will be someone whose path I will never cross again and we’ll leave each other changed people. Perhaps I’ll have the pleasure of expectantly seeing an old friend.

I wonder what emotions I’ll feel in the next 24 hours. Will I feel joy, grief and love? I know for certain that I look forward to all of them with anticipation. I want to experience whatever God has planned for me in the next 24 hours. And when I sit here tomorrow at this time, I want to know that the hours behind me were the best they could have been.

Twenty four hours from now…I want to be a better person.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Tranquility

The quality or state of being calm and peaceful, free from disturbance or agitation...it can also be called serenity, peacefulness, quietude.  I've been told that I owe it to everyone I love (including myself) to find pockets of tranquility in my busy world.

Henry David Thoreau, a nature-lover and philosopher, retreated to an isolated cabin on Walden Pond for two years. Most people in our busy world don't understand how or why someone would do that. In fact, the very thought of even one week of isolation would be frightening or boring to most people. But Henry wrote this:

“I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, To put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die, discover that I had not lived.”

 
Not everyone has to isolate themselves for two years to make the discoveries Thoreau made, but I personally need to carve out some time occasionally to get away like he did. I'm fortunate that I can do it at this time in my life. (There are benefits to retirement and having a husband who has so many hobbies  he won't miss me) My life has been a very busy one with a large extended family, four kids and now nine grandkids. Times of solitude in the past have been few and far between. But now I can finally find those pockets of tranquility in my life and I'm going to do it. I figure, if Jesus needed time away from other people and the things of the world, why wouldn't I or anyone else need it?
 
With all of that in mind, I'm excited that tomorrow morning I will be packing up and going away for two weeks. I won't be going far from home, but I will be alone for thirteen days and nights. I'm going to get away from the to-do lists (that I rarely do so I often feel guilty), I'm going to leave my phone on, but I'm not going to answer it. (I'll tell those I love that they can leave a message in case there's an emergency), and I'm going to keep my computer closed unless I have something to write.
 
I'm going to be in a quiet, tranquil place out in nature where I can just sit and do nothing, or I can take long walks and just think. Or maybe I'll put my brain in neutral and not think. I'll meditate instead. And yes, there is a difference between those two. For me, meditation is a sense of total relaxation and calm. A time to let the universe "speak" to me. Thinking, for me, is generally a waste of time and energy, since life offers so many distractions, I can't ever seem to "think straight". 
 
To some, my plans for the next two weeks may sound boring, but I read once that "boredom is the feeling that everything is a waste of time, serenity, that nothing is." I'm pretty sure I'll feel serene, not bored.
 
For now, I need to put my computer away and pack enough "necessities of life" to get me through the next two weeks. My Bible, a couple new books, and some nutritious food that I enjoy. I will also need my walking shoe and bug spray. I wonder what Thoreau did without bug spray?